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St. Croix Central baseball team continues to mature

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The 0-5 start to the 2014 season is ancient history for the St. Croix Central baseball team.

Since then, the Panthers are 4-3 and they’ve moved up to the middle of the pack in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference standings.

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The Panthers added a pair of wins during the last week. Central hosted Colfax in a double-header on Monday and both games were clean, well-played games. The Vikings won the opener 2-1, but the Panthers bounced back with a 2-0 win in the second game.

Central ended last week with its biggest offensive game since 2011, smashing Boyceville 17-4 on Friday. The day before, the Panthers showed they can be competitive with Mondovi, one of the D-SC leaders, losing 6-3.

Senior Logan Nelson started on the mound in the opening game for the Panthers. He worked the full game, allowing five hits while striking out eight batters in his second start.

“He’s come on as a really good third starter,” said Central coach Jason Koele, who has seen Brett Eckman and Matt Brandeen also give the Panthers consistent pitching results.

Colfax scored once in the opening inning. Central tied the game in the fifth inning. Evan Nielsen doubled with two outs and he scored on Trent Smith’s single. Nielsen led the Panther offense in that game by going 3-4 with a pair of doubles.

Eckman took the mound for the second game and he threw the complete game shutout. He limited the Vikings to four hits and one walk while striking out eight.

Central freshman Owen Schwechler probably had two bruises on his back after this game but both figured prominently into the Panthers’ scoring. Schwechler was hit by a pitch in the third inning and he would score on a two-out single from senior Tanner DeGross. In the fourth inning the Panthers loaded the bases on a walk to Nelson and singles by Cody Gostovich and Josh Albright. Schwechler again stepped to the plate and was hit by a pitch in the back, getting credit for the RBI.

The Panthers’ 17-4 win over Boyceville on Friday was a close game until the Panthers struck for 10 runs in the fifth inning. The Panthers took a 5-0 lead in the first inning. The final four runs came home when junior Ryan Gulich yanked a grand slam homer over the leftfield fence.

The Panthers added single runs in the second and fourth innings before the 10-run outburst in the fifth. The run in the fourth was produced on a solo homer by Albright. A two-run homer by senior Alex Lamberty got the fifth inning rally started. It also included RBI-singles from DeGross, Gulich and Nelson.

Eckman earned the win against Boyceville, working five innings without giving up an earned run.

The one flaw in this game and in Thursday’s loss to Mondovi was defense. All 10 runs given up in the two games were unearned. The Panthers had five errors in the 6-3 loss to Mondovi.

DeGross and Lamberty drove home runs to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the third inning. The Panthers got their final run on a pinch-hit double from Albright in the seventh inning.

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Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
(715) 243-7767 x242
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